Sunday 23 October 2016

Shane Lowry shows them the 5-iron in his soul

Published 16/08/2015 | 03:46


Recently on the European Tour, Shane Lowry could be seen celebrating a hole in one. Not only was it an ace, it came with a prize of a BMW sports car, a flying machine worth about 150 grand. So it is no wonder that Lowry was punching the air, high on the improbability of it all.

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Except it wasn’t actually him who had won the car. It was his playing partner Chris Wood who got the hole in one, and Lowry was just celebrating with him, delighted on his behalf.

You could sense a certain puzzlement on the part of the commentators, unaccustomed as they were to seeing such an outbreak of plain good-heartedness. It must have looked to them more like the reaction of some lad who had rolled out on to his local track with his mates who play once a month, than that of a touring professional.

Though he is a supremely gifted man, Lowry likes to regard himself as “normal”, and there have been times in his life when this has not worked out so well.

At Christmas 2013 he let it be known to his followers on Twitter that he and some friends had been refused entry to the Shelbourne Hotel. The golfer maintained that they had only had a couple of pints and that they were refused because of what they looked like, though, in his opinion, they “looked well”.

He went on to say that the Shelbourne are “so stuck up their own hole they don’t let normal people in”.

I suppose many of us who are from the midlands have been there, being refused entry to some such high and mighty venue, even though we are not obviously drunk and we think we are looking well.

But we just wonder if that scene flashes across the mind of Shane Lowry as he pursues the great prizes of golf on the world’s most storied tracks, if it helped to put the iron — or at least the 5 iron — in his soul.

And we are reminded too of the marvellous “normality” of the Offaly hurler of yore, who would explain to a reporter that the lads are taking the game so seriously, they have been off the drink since last Tuesday.

If he had grown up in that exuberant time, Shane Lowry might well have become a hurler. And there are some who would pretend that that would have been just as satisfying as winning the WGC Invitational at Firestone, holding off the challenges of Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose down the stretch, breaking into the world’s top 20 and having more money than God.

Alas, I fear that in this, as in so many other things, we must start to accept that in our pretending, we have been leading ourselves astray. That all along, while we have told ourselves that our native genius is expressed though hurling, in fact Paddy is, above all else, a golfer.

And yet in our pretending, we tend to place the golf in a lesser compartment, a kind of a “non-national” section. Which leads to this familiar feeling of unease that we may just have got everything the wrong way round.

It is the established practice, for example, that the hurler will eventually retire to play golf — and will often play it very well, even with the wrong grip, due to the obvious similarity in the ball-striking skills which are required.

Alas if he had just started playing golf in the first place, with the right grip, like Shane Lowry, we might have half a dozen lads from Offaly alone tee-ing it up today at the USPGA championship at Whistling Straits, reinforcing Paddy’s domination of the game of golf in general, and probably leading to happier long-term outcomes all round.

But we have not exactly been neglecting the game either. During the fat years, we built so many golf courses in Ireland it was seen by those who didn’t know any better as a kind of a symbol of our foolish extravagance — oh how they would laugh at the presumptuousness of Paddy, urging him instead to attend to the more spiritual aspects of his existence — whatever they might be.

In truth that is what Paddy was doing. In a land apparently designed by the gods as one big golf course, by constructing all these fine tracks we were connecting with the very essence of our Celtic consciousness — whatever that is — finally giving proper expression to that native genius which we saw embodied once more at Firestone in the person of Shane Lowry.

Was Paddy ever more magnificently represented by any one man? With his unathletic gait, he could easily have passed for a farmer, a plumber, a

lorry-driver, or whatever he looks like to the bouncers at a posh hotel. Yet he played like he owned that place, that this was his game, not Justin Rose’s or Jim Furyk’s, that it was in his nature and they were just doing it by the numbers.

Needing to get over the trees somehow on the 18th, it seemed that those trees stood for everything that had ever held Paddy back, that last barrier he could never quite get over because he didn’t feel entitled to such things, and what did the lad do?

He got over it.

He can buy his own hotel now.

Sunday Independent

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